Friday, August 31, 2012

Hard At Work

The last day of August and the last day of work for most of Vaka 130. Fran and Barbara spent most of yesterday fighting various illnesses, though Fran was well enough to join us later on our outing. Joyce had an opportunity to meet the Swedish ambassador to Australia, NZ and the Cook Islands while riding the local bus. After she greeted them in Swedish, they chatted for the remainder of the ride.

Carol continued her work with her classes at school and for a change of pace, decided to walk to school with Yolanda. Yolanda reported that during a school break, one of the students climbed a coconut tree and used his feet to ply some of them off. They were opened and everyone enjoyed the fresh coconut water. Yuri continues to be in demand with his rap and hip hop performances much to the evident delight of the St Josephs students.

Peter and Trudy judged foot races at a sports day at their school handing out popsicle sticks to the place getters. After school they trekked in opposite directions to catch up on some shopping.

Kristie continued her work at the public library. In the morning a whaling kettle was returned to the museum from the whale centre, where it had been on loan. It took 6 large men and a dolly to move it. For our evenings entertainment we visited a local jeweler, a local brewery and were given an interesting lecture in Coconuts. Yuri successfully managed to husk a nut and we all sampled the different stages of the fruit.

Dinner concluded our evening, burgers and fries, island take out style and we were safely delivered back to the Kiikii under the light of a full moon.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Working With The Kids

Kristy on Wednesday continued working hard in the library but happy on the job. Her tattoo experience was fantastic. Trudy and Peter had a sweet tooth and decided to grab an ice cream at Foodland. Trudy chose passion fruit and Peter Chocolate Banana. Afterwards they paid a visit to Westpac Bank to pay for their departure tax. Trudy also received a nice blue vest from her school. Joyce while waiting for the bus had a surprise and was offered a ride to Titikaveka from the secretary of the school. She had never been on a bike so she didn’t refuse  and loved it. Fran read to the children and dusted down a small section of the library which is now nearly clean. Victoria brought in Almond croissants and Fran has organised to take some of her pumkin hummus bask with her to the states.

Yolanda was thrilled to play her ukulele for the pre-school children who were cute and great. She also enjoyed a nice stroll into town. Barbara (aka mom), helped out in the 6th grade class at our school. In the afternoon she was asked to help look after the 3rd grade class since all the teachers went to the soccer field to demonstrate how the kids played football for the NZ Prime Minister. My mom forgot how vastly different the 3rd graders are from the 6th graders. Carol received some much needed R& R but she was able to make an appearance for dinner. I helped the children practice for their tests, but they are now going to be held in October. I also helped the kids with spelling, math and reading. My high-light was getting to rap and sing for the kids. They were so entranced by it. Some wanted to give me coins for my singing. My mom and I met up with some of her friends for dinner at Trader Jacks. They were lovely and the food was great. I ate ribs- so good!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Preparing For The Forum

Tuesday was a big day for Vaka 130. We’ve had a lot of excitement leading up to the opening of the Pacific Forum and finally the big night arrived. But first to school. The bus ride was uneventful for all of us but Joyce who observed an incident on the bus to Titikaveka. She stayed at her school all day but the rest of us all had a half  day as we could get ready to go to the forum.

Peter and Trudy got back to the Kiikii in time to join Harry Napa, owner along with his wife Pauline for lunch. He might be the most interesting person on the island with his long history of entrepreneurship and many opinions about current politics, including a comment about politicians i.e. forum delegates being carried on a  traditional ‘Pa’ata’ which should really be only for arikis.

Around 3.00 Debi kindly gave the lot of us a ride to the national auditorium where we joined our school groups. The event was a bit of organised chaos. Forum delegates arrived one by one, some riding on a pa’ata accompanied by school children and sometimes a whole entourage of teachers, parents and kids. Fran, Yolanda and Carol, wearing lovely ‘eis’ on their heads march in with Takitumu. The rest of us met up with our respective schools in the stands.

There was dancing singing, some long-winded speeches and so we say ‘ a good time was had by all.

A small note of delight: On the bus ride home from school, a couple of students we’d met at Sister Margret’s homework centre recognized Peter. They looked happy to see him and the little boy who actually tried on Peter’s hat gave a special shy sweet smile. It was a small reminder of how a childs life can be touched by GV’s even in such a short time.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Life Is Good

Friday brought us to the close of our first work week in the beautiful Cook Islands. Our day began with morning meeting, Yolanda’s thought of the day, Kristi’s journal entry and of course a hearty breakfast. Then off to our various work sites where sports Friday in the schools provided students with various forms of competition and group exercise. The children continued rehearsing for their up-coming performances at Tuesdays Pacific Forum, as they received final instructions as to time schedule, uniforms and proper behavior. The younger children at Takitumu School were treated to a presentation by Greg from Esther Honey Foundation accompanied by our very own Barbara. Friday evening back at the Kiikii, the group wre picked up for a fun evening of ‘Fish & Chips’ at the flying boat restaurant.

Saturday and Sunday the group members busied themselves in various buddy combinations, exploring the many things to do on the island including shopping at the Saturday market, bike riding, the Safari tour, the whale research centre, dinner and traditional dancing at the Edgewater Resort, snorkeling, catching up with friends and attending a CICC Church to hear some amazing hym singing. Life is Good.



Friday, August 24, 2012

Calm Seas

The day started out with calm seas, the usual spectacular sunrise, and a sighting of one or two whales just off the beach near our hotel.

The volunteers seem to be settling into a comfortable work routine at the various schools. Kristi nearly finished organizing the library at Titikaveka College. Yolanda was invited to play the ukulele along with the music teacher at her school and was given a music lesson as a bonus.

We had an evening out for dinner at the Aquarius. Our food was delicious. Kristi, Yolanda, and Peter decided to try the night life and went to the cultural dance show at the staircase restaurant. It was spectacular. The drumming was amazing. All three were invited to participate in the dancing, with much success, and despite the predictions to the contrary, we made it back to the Kiikii on the bus without causing an international incident.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Good Day To Be A Volunteer

The day began on a high note thanks to a fine breakfast from Mary, Trudy’s thoughtful synopsis of Tuesdays doings, and Frans inspiring thought for the day. With spirits high, we then engaged James in a discussion of various options for the evening and weekend activities, scheduling and desire of team members to attend next Tuesdays opening ceremony for the Pacific Forum. This we have been told is a gathering of Pacific Island nation representatives that will be held in Rarotonga for the first time ever. It is particularly interesting for us because children from the schools where we work will be participating in the opening ceremonies.

We then set off in a gentle rain for our first bus ride to our respective work sites. As we stood waiting for the bus, it became apparent that the team, was not at full strength. Missing was Barbara who, Yuri reported, was ‘under the weather’, and Carol who was moving gingerly after her unfortunate tumble yesterday. Even so, the team had lost none of it’s momentum that they overshot their destination by a large margin and were obliged as Fran put it ‘to do the Cook Islands Walkabout’ for 45 mins to get back to Takitumu.

All went well there after, however, as they buried themselves helping in the library, in the classrooms and with the students, practices for their coming participation in the Pacific Forum ceremonies, but, sadly their participation is in doubt as they lack the necessary uniforms.

Meanwhile at Te Uki Ou School, Trudy and Peter continued to help the younger children with their reading, and Trudy spent additional time in the classroom. Although we have only seen them for two days, it seems clear that the children are thriving in a very caring environment that the school and faculty provide.

The report from Titikaveka is also positive. Joyce spent her time there in the classroom, where she astonished and delighted one and all by using music to teach reading. Kristi had what she described as a ‘very good day’ working in the library where she made great progress despite dodging the dreaded lizard.

Finally at St Josephs, Yuri shouldered the Global Volunteers burden single handedly, albeit belatedly, as he had to take the long route to School. Once on the scene, however, he proved indispensable to the 4th Graders as they practiced their marching and Olympic style events and otherwise sought to avoid strenuous academic activity.

All in all it was a very good day to be a Global Volunteer.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

So Much To Do

The major business of being a volunteer began today with our team meeting. The thought of the day by James was ‘Your basket and my basket will feed the nation’, a traditional Maori saying. Today we took our baskets to our assignments to match them with our schools and their teachers and students.

We were all excited to start, all bundled (in a Pacific way i.e. no parkers and wool hats) against a surprisingly cool morning and armed with our self catered lunches. James drove us to our sites (tomorrow we catch the bus) Barbara and Yuri first into town to St Josephs school where Yuri worked in Miss Lucy’s 4th grade class and Barbara worked in Mr Kimis 6th grade class.

Next Carol, Yolonda and Fran were dropped at Takitumu, Trudy and Peter at Te Uki Ou and finally Joyce and Kristie at Titikaveka College. It was a full and busy day for everyone and included helping children, major book sorting, an unfortunate fall by Carol (nose in book she missed a small step).

At the end of the day, Yoland, Carol, Trudy, Peter and Fran went to Sister Margarets famous homework project and worked with wonderful, earnest and motivated children. They may like to study but Sister Margaret bakes. Today it was chocolate chip cookies. What a motivation for us all!

Then without letting the grass grow under our feet, we went to the library and museum for a self guided tour and then onto a dance rehearsal. A couple of us, Yuri and Trudy saw children from their schools, a couple of us danced (Debi and Yolonda). All of us enjoyed it and look forward to seeing island dancing at the island night.

Back to the Kiikii for another delicious meal and a discussion about the coming week and it’s activities (So much to do and so little time).



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to the Cook Islands!

Carol, Fran, Joyce, Trudy, Peter, Kristie, Yuri and Barbara – Rarotonga here we come! 6.30am we arrive after a 10 hour flight from LAX. After squeezing into the van with James and Debi and 10,000 pounds of luggage (which helped to quickly develop camaraderie) off to meet our Kiwi team member, Yolanda for an early morning orientation meeting at the Kiikii. After giving us beautiful ‘ei’s’ and a welcome to the Island, James and Debi engaged us all in discussing our goals, program sustainability, insights into the Cook Islands culture as well as practical info about the island and program logistics. Around 11 am we took a break to unpack, do errands, and generally rest. My son Yuri and I visited St Josephs where I was a volunteer last year. We were enthusiastically welcomed with hugs and of course food in typical Cook Islands manner. The mid day weather is warm and inviting and Rarotonga is crowed with tourists. But our journey here is different from many other people. Our interest includes appreciating the physical beauty and having fun, but our goals also include meeting new friends and seeing old ones, making useful contributions to this community, learning and growing and to fully immerse ourselves in this experience as discussed in our early morning meeting. We reconvened as a group at 4.00 and discussed other things, effective team characteristics, which include: respect, communication, shared goals, individuality and flexibility. These formulate the structure and provide the lenses through which we understand our experiences. Our meeting was concluded with a wonderfully cooked local meal.


- Barbara